Half of your staff are thinking about leaving: can upskilling help to retain them?

Jul 14, 2022
Staff Management

IT leaders need to take a closer look at the argument for upskilling existing staff.

Skills shortages have always been a fact of life for CIOs. Today, however, the labour market is tighter than ever, and CIOs face multiple challenges.

Yet a recent survey by Pluralsight suggests that IT employers could do more to retain staff by upskilling them so that they can take on bigger and better roles.

Here’s how the situation looks from the perspective of the IT professionals surveyed. Four out of 10 (37%) IT professionals are not very confident that their tech skills are being used to their fullest potential. Three out of 10 (29%) don’t feel confident that their current job provides opportunities for growth. IT professionals also say they encounter barriers to upskilling:

  • 47% say they are too busy and that other demands on their time prevent learning.
  • 33% identify employer cost constraints
  • 27% blame a “distracting work environment”

If this all sounds somewhat negative, let’s look at the potential upside of upskilling existing employees:

  • Employees now typically regard opportunities to learn and grow on the job as the top driver of a positive work culture. This, in turn, makes employees happier in their work and drives them to recommend working for their employer
  • Improving the skills of existing employees is cheaper than trying to hire new talent (new external hires tend to cost up to 20% more than upskilled workers, they receive lower performance evaluations in the first two years, and they have higher exit rates)
  • McKinsey estimates that effective reskilling results in productivity gains of between 6% and 12%
  • In general, employers believe that offering short courses to learn new skills has a bigger positive impact on their business than other options including longer courses or hiring apprentices.

Upskilling existing employees is a powerful response to tight labour market conditions. Among the large enterprises focusing on home-grown talent is BT, which has invested heavily in helping its IT staff develop skills fit for the cloud and agile development.

Notably, BT’s upskilling modules are concise, which helps to get around objections based on employees being “too busy”. As Deepak Channa, BT’s erstwhile director for QA and Test at BT, puts it: “The moment people see that a development session is an hour, they switch off. We wanted a learning solution that could be used in a 10-minute break.”

One of the more intriguing conclusions in Pluralsight’s research is that 52% of IT professionals consider leaving their job at least once a month.

You might say that thinking about something isn’t the same as doing it. But the evidence suggests that employees do act on their thoughts. On the basis of a survey of 2,000 employees, for example, LinkedIn reports that those who feel their skills are not being used well are ten times more likely to be looking for a new job.

Faced with odds like this, it’s clear that CIOs need to think seriously about whether they are making the most of the talent they already employ.

Find out how Pluralsight can help